Public education lacks choices, hinders disadvantaged

As my college career comes to a close, I have become increasingly dissatisfied with the public education system. From grammar school to college, I have spent my entire educational career in public schools, which makes me a pretty good expert from a consumer standpoint.

While I have been able to recognize the many flaws with the system, many of my friends have not been so lucky. Several have dropped out. Some have simply seen education as pointless. Perhaps, to them, it is. And as such, should they not have the right to say no to the educational choices already set for them? Or, moreover, should they not have the option to simply choose another system which they prefer?

The current public education system is detrimental to those whom it is supposed to assist – the disadvantaged. This is the case for several reasons; however, because of length requirements, I will limit my criticisms to two central problems that I believe hurt the most.

The current system limits choice significantly for poor and disadvantaged people, and also limits educational incentive, thus creating an environment where the value of education becomes marginal.

When consumers have the choice to pick a product that best captures their net utility, producers have to adapt in order to capture profit because if the product is of poor quality, consumers have the option to choose another product. Thus, it is in the interest of the producer to best suit the consumer.

Unfortunately, no such consumer check exists in our current educational system because the federal government has a monopoly on education that significantly limits choice for the consumers. Thus, most parents and children are forced to accept the crap that they are offered – it’s sort of an offer that they cannot refuse.

For some, options do exist. For instance, children from wealthier backgrounds have a tremendous amount of leeway in their educational decisions. Because more affluent families have the financial resources to place their children in better schools, they ultimately have better options than the less well-to-do. Therefore, it seems as if choice (or the lack thereof) hurts most consumers under this educational system.

One way in which we can correct this is by expanding the options for the consumers (i.e. vouchers). By giving parents more control over who teaches their children and what their children are taught, schools are forced to adapt to parents’ demands, thus creating a better overall product for parents and students.

Incentives are what drive choices. I choose to study because I want to get an A. I choose to exercise because I want to stay healthy. I choose to watch TV because it makes me happy. Most things do not occur out of a vacuum.

Yet for some “experts,” some goods are exempt from the competitive nature of the marketplace – goods such as education and medicine.

They argue that these select goods should be offered to every individual. And, while I do not disagree fundamentally with their claim, I do disagree with the means of providing these goods to the public. Proponents of public education generally support centralized curricula that are often bombarded with mandated minimum requirements.

Despite good intentions, the consequences of such thinking are disastrous. More often than not, the curricula are watered down, students are not trained to think independently, resources are squandered and no incentives are created. How often do you hear students say, “I go to school because my mom makes me,” or, “it’s the right thing to do”?

Public education has failed those whom it set out to assist – poor and disadvantaged students. Moreover, federally controlled education exempt from the marketplace significantly limits choice that ultimately affects the value of education.